Posts Tagged ‘Vietnamese’

South China Sea: The Facts Against China

June 6, 2017

Philippine Daily Inquirer

EDITORIAL

12:10 AM June 07, 2017

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court says he has a “civic duty” to sound the alarm: The Philippines may lose the West Philippine Sea, including 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone and 100 percent of its extended continental shelf, if it does nothing to stop China’s creeping expansionism in the region. He told the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Monday: It is “the civic duty of every Filipino to defend our territory, defend our maritime entitlements in accordance with international law and our Constitution.”

To meet this civic duty, he suggested a three-anchor policy, borrowed from the Vietnamese experience: be friendly with China, defend Philippine territory, cultivate alliances. All three anchors must be in place, otherwise the ship of state will continue to be at risk.

Public opinion largely supports the legal approach that the Philippines took in its dispute with China, the same approach which led to the sweeping arbitral tribunal victory of July 12, 2016. That same public remains largely mistrustful of China.

There is a vocal segment of the public, however, which is ready to accept friendlier relations with China, including billion-dollar loans, but consider defense of territory inconvenient and stronger alliances unpatriotic or insufficiently post-ideological.

As a group, they subscribe to several untruths; we should set them right with the following facts:

The main cause of the South China Sea disputes is China’s aggressive expansionism in the region. The conflicting claims, involving not only the Philippines and China, but also Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Taiwan, are not reducible to a geopolitical power play between China and the United States. The claims are rooted in Beijing’s irresponsible and unsupported assertion—first made only in 1947, refined in 1950, and officially announced to the United Nations only in 2009—that China enjoys “indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof.” This sweeping assertion violates both the letter and spirit of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which all disputants are signatories.

The notion that the Philippines is a mere plaything trapped in a contest of wills between two superpowers reassures those who wish to take no resolute action against China, but it is not based on reality. The United States is necessarily a factor in the disputes, in part because the biggest economy with the largest navy has a vested interest in freedom of navigation through the vital South China Sea, and in part because it has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines. But to assert that the United States bears equal blame for the current disputes is to engage in the worst sort of false equivalence. Since the 1980s, China has been expanding its hold on the Paracels, on the Spratly, and now even on Scarborough Shoal.

The case that the Philippines filed with the arbitral tribunal is not the cause of the current tension—and it is appalling that some Filipinos actually think this is true. The Philippines was forced to file the case after the Chinese deception in 2012, when they took control of Scarborough Shoal. That year, a standoff between Philippine and Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal led to a diplomatic initiative; the United States brokered a deal agreed to by the foreign ministries of both the Philippines and China that called for a mutual withdrawal from the shoal. The Philippines complied; China did not.

The arbitral tribunal ruling is a true landmark—a sweeping victory for the Philippines (because it invalidates the 1947/1950 “nine-dash line” which undergirds China’s expansionist claims to almost all of the South China Sea) and for other claimants as well. Contrary to the thinking of the appeasement bloc in the Philippine political class, the ruling is an enforceable decision—not because China will suddenly cave in under the weight of the legal ruling, but because China, the world’s second largest economy, is a signatory to many other international covenants and itself believes in the power of arbitration.

Defeatism is not a policy.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/104595/the-facts-against-china#ixzz4jFMum3MZ
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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(Contains links to previous related articles)

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

Vietnam ready to cooperate with Trump administration

May 29, 2017

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Vietnam respects and is ready to work with the new Trump administration, thus boosting the bilateral relationship

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Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Credit Vietnam News Agency

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Vietnam is ready to cooperate with the administration of United States President Donald Trump, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said ahead of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to the U.S. on May 30- 31, 2017.

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During a regular press meeting on Thursday evening, spokeswoman Hang confirmed that the Vietnamese head of government will pay a visit to the U.S. from May 29 to 31 under the invitation of President Trump.
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The official visit deepen Hanoi’s relationship with its partners, including the U.S., which is in line with the Southeast Asian country’s independent and diverse foreign policies and active international integration, the diplomat stated.
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“Vietnam respects and is ready to work with the new Trump administration, thus boosting the bilateral relationship in accordance with the orientation of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership launched in 2013,” she continued.
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Within the framework of the visit, PM Phuc is schedule to join talks with the President Trump and meet several U.S. congressmen and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
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During the visit, leaders of the two countries will seek ways to enhance the two nations’ partnership, especially in politics, diplomacy, economy-trade, education, war consequences settlement, and regional and international issues of shared concern, for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world, Hang added.
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On top of these activities, the Vietnamese premier is also scheduled to confer with some local business and the Vietnamese community in the North American nation, meeting Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres in New York and attending the 40th anniversary of Vietnam joining the UN.

http://tuoitrenews.vn/politics/41164/vietnam-ready-to-cooperate-with-trump-administration

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The U.S. Air Force's WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

The U.S. Air Force’s WC-135 Constant Phoenix sniffer plane in a file photo. (Yonhap)

An SU-30 fighter jet

An SU-30 fighter jet CREDIT: EPA

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China has built islands by reclamation of sand and coral and has militarized them for People’s Liberationa Army (PLA) use. Seen here, Chinese structures and an airstrip on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are shown from the Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane of the Philippine Air Force during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017. Philippine President Duterte on Friday, May 19, 2017, described this as “some kind of armed garrison.” Credit Francis Malasig/Pool Photo via AP — China has now occupied and built up by reclamation seven small reefs and atolls that have been made ready for military use.

 (Smart money is on China right now)

FILE - Vietnam People's Navy personnel carry their country's national flag.

 (Contains links to several earlier related stories)

FILE photo p rovided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

No automatic alt text available.

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Philippine Lawmakers Want To Drill For Oil In The South China Sea — A Move Likely To Anger China, Upset President Duterte — Some say “skirt the issue of sovereignty”

May 23, 2017

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Richard Gordon, in separate interviews, said the country has the sovereign right to exploit resources within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal/ File

MANILA, Philippines – With or without a threat of war from China, the Duterte administration should pursue its plan to drill for oil and exploit other resources in areas in the West Philippine Sea being claimed by the Chinese, senators said yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Richard Gordon, in separate interviews, said the country has the sovereign right to exploit resources within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“We must continue to assert our rights over our territory… including drilling (for oil), because that’s within our territory,” Drilon said. “Exploitation of natural resources is the right of the state within its territory.”

Sen. Sonny Angara said the country should start exploring for oil in the South China Sea but that it should “proceed carefully.”

He said the natural gas reserves from the Malampaya complex near Palawan would soon be depleted.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the government should consider joint exploration as the country does not have the financial resources to undertake such investment-heavy endeavors alone.

“The challenge is how to skirt the issue of sovereignty. Can we (claimant nations) set aside the issue temporarily and focus on the economic benefits?” Recto said.

He said the government must try to secure a better deal than the one for the Malampaya program – or one that ensures bigger share of profit for the country.

Last week, President Duterte disclosed that Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened war if the Philippines would insist on drilling for oil in the West Philippine Sea.

Beijing, however, appeared to have sidestepped the war threat claimed by Duterte.

“I said it is ours and I will drill the oil. And I tell them do not do it because it is ours. But I have the arbitral ruling. But they said that if you force the issue, we will go to war,” Duterte said, quoting Xi.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, said the government should now focus on building naval and research facilities near Benham Rise – renamed Philippine Rise – to hasten exploration activities in the area.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committees on energy and on economic affairs, made the call after President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25, renaming Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.

“There is an urgent need for us to hasten the conduct of extensive research so we can map out strategies on how to develop the area and use its rich natural resources to enrich the lives of the Filipino people,” he said.

“Changing its name has put emphasis on our sovereign jurisdiction over this vast mass of underwater plateau. Now that we have done that, government must now shift its attention to how to utilize its natural resources before our neighbors discover its hidden treasures,” he added.

The Senate economic affairs committee is finalizing its recommendations for the creation of the Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA), as proposed by Angara, to spearhead research and development efforts for the resource-rich area.

The Philippine Rise is a 24-million-hectare underwater plateau located about 250 kilometers east of Northern Luzon. It is within the Philippine EEZ and continental shelf, based on recommendations of the UN Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf issued on April 2012.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/24/1703092/senators-drill-oil-south-china-sea

Related:

FILE - Vietnam People's Navy personnel carry their country's national flag.

 (Contains links to several earlier related stories)

FILE photo p rovided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

No automatic alt text available.

No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

China’s President Xi Jinping Wasn’t Trying to Bully the Philippines When He Threatened War — Philippine Foreign Secretary Says — “Better Ask Vietnam” Expert Says

May 23, 2017

By Norman P Aquino and Andreo Calonzo

May 22, 2017, 2:01 AM EDT May 22, 2017, 4:40 AM EDT

Bloomberg

Image result for philippines, china, photos

China’s President Xi Jinping wasn’t trying to bully the Philippines at a recent meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, according to the Southeast Asian nation’s top diplomat.

In a speech last Friday, Duterte said Xi had threatened to go to war with the Philippines after Duterte expressed an intention to drill for oil in the disputed South China Sea.

“It is but natural that when you talk about peace and you talk about conflict that the word ‘war’ may or may not come up,” new Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said at a televised briefing in Manila on Monday. “My interpretation of the meeting is that there was no bullying or pushing around.”

Since taking power last year, Duterte has sought to improve ties with China while deflecting criticism at home that he’s failed to assert Philippine claims to disputed territory. China’s claim to more than 80 percent of the South China Sea has prevented the Philippines and Vietnam from exploring valuable oil and gas deposits.

An international court ruled last July that China had no historic rights to resources in waters claimed by the Philippines in a case brought by Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino. Duterte has sought to put the ruling aside in his dealings with China, which has ignored the ruling. That stance has won Duterte $24 billion in loan and investment pledges from China.

‘Common Development’

Cayetano said Duterte only disclosed details of the meeting with Xi because he was “being barraged with comments with what he should do.” He added that the Philippines won’t form a military alliance with China, nor would it try to raise emotions against the Chinese.

“I hate the fact that China is claiming part of the territory of the Philippines but I love the Chinese,” Cayetano said in a speech during a flag-raising ceremony in Manila on Monday. “Why? Because we hate the sin but we love the sinner.”

Without specifying when or where his meeting with the Chinese president took place, Duterte said Xi had threatened to go to war with the Philippines after Duterte asserted his nation’s sovereignty over the South China Sea by citing last year’s arbitration tribunal ruling upholding the Philippine claim.

“Well, if you force this, we’ll be forced to tell you the truth. We will go to war. We will fight you,” Duterte quoted Xi as saying.

When asked to confirm Xi’s comments at a press briefing on Monday, China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying referred reporters to Cayetano’s earlier remarks.

“We are committed to resolving the dispute with parties directly concerned, including the Philippines, through dialogue and negotiation,” Hua said. “Pending final settlement, we advocate shelving the dispute for common development.”

Image result for philippines, china, photos

Officials from both countries agreed to discuss “mutually acceptable approaches” to South China Sea issues during a bilateral consultation in the Chinese city of Guiyang last Friday, according to a joint statement released by the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs.

No Disrespect

Cayetano, who claimed to have been present at the meeting, said he couldn’t divulge the exact conversation between the two leaders but claimed it was meant to “increase mutual trust and respect.”

“There was no language or even tone that would lead any of the two presidents to believe that there was disrespect for them or their countries,” he said.

After hosting a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders in Manila last month, Duterte said discussing China’s recent actions in the South China Sea would have been useless.

“For those who are peace loving just like me, I don’t want trouble,” Duterte said. “You have to be very careful. Whenever we talk about a buildup it would be useless. It would be useless except for fighting terrorism,” he said, adding that the Philippines intended to ask China for more help to develop its economy.

In a communique released after the summit, Asean welcomed “progress to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea” by the middle of this year, and recognized the long-term benefits of peace, stability and sustainable development in the region.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-22/china-war-threat-not-serious-philippine-foreign-secretary-says

One of our Asia experts at Peace and Freedom said, “The Philippines better ask Vietnam if the threat of war from China is significant or not. They have longer experience with China.”

Related:

FILE - Vietnam People's Navy personnel carry their country's national flag.

No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: China’s Real Choice to The Philippines: Ignore International Law, Or Face War — Is This How The One Belt One Road System Will Be Built? On Coercion?

May 23, 2017

FINALLY, President Rodrigo Duterte confronted his Chinese counterpart with the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that generally favored the Philippines’ legal challenge to China’s expansive claim over most of the South China Sea.

And look where such audacity, right in Beijing during the recent Belt and Road Forum, had brought him.

After China President Xi Jinping shot back to his face a threat of war if the Philippines dares to dig for oil in its maritime areas that are also being claimed by China – President Duterte found himself alone, virtually defenseless.

Image result for Photos, Beijing, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Xi Jinping

Duterte taken prisoner by China: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony in Beijing, China, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. AP

The threat has not been withdrawn – so we take as true and accurate the revelation of President Duterte that Xi warned him that China would go to war if the Philippines insisted on its rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that both countries have signed with more than 165 other UN members.

Three days after Mr. Duterte disclosed China’s war threat, Beijing has not denied it. Neither has Malacañang’s interpreters of presidential statements clarified what he said or meant in his speech in Davao City last Friday.

Filipinos grown familiar with Dutertespeak will understand better the broadcast versions of his Taglish narration. (Sorry, we have no provision for translation.) Here is an account by ABS-CBN, never mind if Mr. Duterte questions the TV network’s credibility:

“I said, Mr. Xi Jinping, I will insist that it is ours and we will drill oil. Sinabi ko talaga harap-harapan, that is ours and we intend to drill oil there. My view is I can drill the oil.

“Ang sagot sa akin, ‘Well, we are friends. We don’t want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain warm relationship, but if you force the issue we will go to war.’

Ano pa bang sabihin ko?” (On other occasions, the Commander-in-Chief has conceded that Filipinos would be massacred in a war with China.)

Mr. Duterte went on: “Pinag-aawayan natin, ‘akin ito’. Sabi mo, ‘iyo ‘yan.’ Eh sabi ko, ‘atin ito, I’ll drill the oil.’ Sabi niya, ‘please do not do that because that is ours.’ ‘That is according to you.’ ‘But I have the arbitral.’ ‘Yes, but ours is historical and yours is legal of recent memory.’

“‘Amin mga Ming, Ming dynasty pa.’ ‘But that’s too far away. It’s almost alien to us to hear those words because we were never under Chinese jurisdiction.’ Sabi niya, ‘Well, if you force the issue, we’ll be forced to tell you the truth.’

“‘So, what is the truth?’

“‘We will go to war. We will fight you!’”

• Indeed, war is not an option

PRESIDENT Duterte has said time and again that the possibility of an armed confrontation with China is the reason why he chooses to pursue friendly relations and seek amicable resolution of disputes with the neighbor.

Besides, as he has lamented, he is not sure if even the Philippines’ supposed ally the United States would come to its succor if the former colony were attacked. The two countries’ Mutual Defense Treaty has not been tested in war since its signing in 1951.

Doubts about the readiness of the US to make good its security commitments despite the many wars where Filipinos and Americans had fought side by side – not to mention his unpleasant brushes with the Yankees – have contributed to Mr. Duterte’s disenchantment with America.

China has seized the moment. Its tireless Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in Manila caught Mr. Duterte on the rebound.

While Washington in the midst of a presidential election campaign was either scolding Manila or not paying attention, Beijing was assiduously courting the mayor-suddenly-turned-president.

Mr. Duterte may have simple needs in his still provincial lifestyle, but his being thrust into the presidency on a populist platform has suffused him with a grand dream of achieving peace and prosperity for the masses within the six short years given him.

That may explain why he seems to be in a hurry. Witness his promise to lick the drug, crime and corruption problems in six months, later adjusted to one year – which we doubt is achievable given the complexity of the issues and the inertia of the past.

Lack of time and resources may hobble his agenda-in-a-hurry, including his “Build! Build! Build!” infrastructure program. This has pushed him to the waiting arms of a China promising massive investments, loans and aid.

Skeptics may think Mr. Duterte is not exactly equal to the tasks he has assigned to himself. The spirit is fired up, but the body may not be up to the job. That is why the team he has assembled is crucial to his success.

After President Xi showered this small neighbor with tantalizing promises to help Mr. Duterte realize his dream for the country – then jabbed him with a war threat to force him to toe Beijing’s line, even somebody as tough as “Digong” must have been shocked.

The challenge is not aimed at Rodrigo Duterte alone, but to the Filipino people. Clearly, the President now needs all the help that can be mustered in and outside the country.

We due respect, we urge the President to rethink things, including his domestic priorities, his foreign policy, his demeanor as Chief of State, and his attitude toward human life.

As a seasoned fighter, he knows that before going to battle, one has to know his allies, enemies, potential allies, and potential enemies – and strategize accordingly. The Commander must now make a wise – shrewd, if we may suggest – sorting out of all forces on the field.

He should exert effort to keep the country’s friends of long standing and renew commitments to solemn international covenants.

As he deals with the reality of an unmasked warlike expansionist China, President Duterte can assume that all his countrymen are his allies or potential allies.

* * *

ADVISORY: Postscript archives can be accessed at www.manilamail.com. Follow us on Twitteras @FDPascual. Email feedback to fdp333@yahoo.com

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/05/23/1702685/rody-finally-raises-arbitration-ruling

Related:

FILE - Vietnam People's Navy personnel carry their country's national flag.

No automatic alt text available.
For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Top Vietnam Government Leaders Whisper About Dissolving Vietnam To Become a Chinese Province

April 20, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc

A few eyebrows have been raised recently among Westerners in Hanoi who have heard talk about a plan for Vietnam to become a province of China. Vietnamese Communist Party leaders see great emotional and financial gain ahead if the bickering between the two Communist trading partners comes to an end once and for all…

“We should end the fight over the South China Sea and so many other things and cash in on China’s growing economic and military power. Xi is making China great again and we want to be in the inside getting rich,” one Vietnamese told us…..

Vietnam has reached out to the U.S. several times in the past but fear of China and a seemingly dense U.S. leadership team have frustrated the Vietnamese.

“We have a big reception for President Obama but he would’s even eat dinner with us,” one Vietnamese insider told Peace and Freedom.

Related:

Fury in Vietnam over United passenger dragged from plane

April 12, 2017

Reuters

By Mai Nguyen | HANOI

Outrage spread to Vietnam on Wednesday over United Airlines’ handling of a passenger dragged from his seat after it emerged that the 69-year-old U.S. doctor was Vietnamese by birth.

Although United Airlines has no direct flights to Vietnam, there were widespread calls on social media for a boycott after video showed a bloodied David Dao being yanked out of the plane by airport security on Sunday to make way for United employees.

The ire in Vietnam grew quickly after it was reported that Dao’s origins were not in the Southeast Asian country’s old enemy, China, as many had at first assumed.

Vietnamese also fumed at allegations over Dao’s past reported in the United States as irrelevant and possibly racist.

“Watching this makes my blood boil, I’ll never fly United Airlines,” commented Anh Trang Khuya on Facebook, the most widely used social media platform in Vietnam.

Nguyen Khac Huy wrote: “Boycott United!!! This is excessive! Let’s be loving and united, Vietnamese people!”

There was no immediate comment from the government or in state media.

Video showing Dao being pulled from United Airlines Flight 3411 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Sunday went viral and the worldwide backlash hit the airline’s share price and prompted an apology from the company chief executive.

Kentucky’s medical board website shows that a doctor David Dao graduated in 1974 in Ho Chi Minh City – then known as Saigon and the capital of U.S.-backed South Vietnam before its defeat and the reunification of Vietnam under communist rule a year later.

Around that time, Dao left for the United States, according to U.S. media and Vietnamese websites.

Vietnamese media said that Dao was also a songwriter and crooner of soulful ballads – including one about the memory of rain falling in Saigon.

Reports in U.S. media of an offence that had led to Dao losing his medical license in 2003 were dismissed in Vietnam as a probable smear campaign.

“Dr. Dao didn’t do anything wrong on that flight and that’s the main thing,” wrote Clarence Dung Taylor in a post that had more than 4,000 likes.

The attitude to the case shifted dramatically in Vietnam once it was reported that Dao was not from China – an ancient enemy with which Vietnam continues to have a maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

When initial reports had suggested the man being dragged from the plane was Chinese, some Vietnamese had posted strongly unsympathetic comments about him.

“So funny,” wrote Bui Nguyen Trong Nghia. “Now they know he’s Vietnamese, most people stand up to advocate. Whether it’s Vietnamese or Chinese, there’ll be discrimination as we’re Asian.”

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Anger burns on Vietnam’s poisoned coast a year after spill — “The big fish are all dead” — Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster

April 4, 2017

Reuters

An employee poses with what he says are contaminated decomposed shrimps at a frozen food storage facility in Vietnam’s central Ha Tinh province April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

“The big fish are all dead,” complained 50 year-old Mai Xuan Hoa, picking small fish from a net as he tried to rebuild his livelihood a year after Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster.

Sea life began washing up on April 6, 2016 near a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp. Within weeks, more than 200 km (125 miles) of coast had been sullied by the accidental release of chemicals including cyanide, phenols and iron hydroxide.

Along the coast, the recovery is slow and anger endures.

“Where we caught 10 fish in the past, now we will only catch one or two,” Hoa said.

Locals says thousands of fishermen have simply given up and gone to look for work elsewhere. Tourists are wary of beaches that have lost their pristine reputation and businesses are struggling.

But the wider impact could be even greater after protests over the spill encouraged a wave of activism that has pushed environmental issues up the agenda for a communist government that now promises greater scrutiny of investments.

“First, people were angry with Formosa for polluting Vietnam’s environment,” said priest and activist Dang Huu Nam.

“Now, they are angry with the unclear responses and solutions of some provincial authorities over fixing the disaster.”

More than 40,000 jobs were directly affected in four provinces dependent on fishing and tourism. Across the country, a quarter of a million workers felt the impact, according to the labor ministry.

After months of rallies and an outpouring of anger not seen in four decades of Communist Party rule, Formosa agreed to pay $500 million in compensation.

The Hanoi government and the provinces have now declared the sea clean and the seafood safe. But while no official figures are available, fishermen say fish stocks have yet to recover.

CATCHES DOWN

On a beach in Ha Tinh province, Hoa and two other fishermen’s catch for the day was barely enough to fill a bucket. Compensation payments of 17.4 million dong ($765) would not last them long, they said.

Despite the reduced supply, merchants say fish prices are now a quarter of what they were because of fears of continued contamination.

Many fishermen have simply abandoned their boats.

Some 3,000 boats were affected in Quang Tri province alone, said Nguyen Truong Khoa, deputy director of the local environment department in the province, south of Ha Tinh.

“It will take a long time to recover completely,” he said.

Tourists are also still wary of this stretch of coast.

Once bustling, the Ky Hoa seafood restaurant on the central beach of Cua Viet is empty. Dust settles on chairs and tables.

“It’s like the place is dying,” said owner Mai Ngoc Ky.

The central government says half the compensation money has been paid out, but many complain about the wait.

“If things continue like this we will soon be bankrupt,” said seafood trader Nguyen Viet Long.

Vietnam’s environment ministry did not respond to a written request for comment on the aftermath of the disaster and on when Formosa would be allowed to start operations.

Neither Ha Tinh province nor Formosa gave Reuters permission to visit the $11 billion plant.

PLANS TO RESTART

Eleven officials have been named and shamed over the spill.

The government says the steel plant has now addressed 51 out of 53 violations identified in an investigation into the accident, but it will only restart when it can do so safely.

Formosa hopes to get approval for trial runs soon, with the aim of starting commercial steel production by the end of the year, nearly a year behind schedule.

“We remember the lessons we’ve learned, and we’re moving forward,” said Chang Fu-ning, an executive vice president of the company.

Formosa has promised to invest another $350 million at the mill, including in a more modern ‘dry’ coking system which does not use water as a coolant but is more expensive.

Formosa’s use of the ‘wet’ coking system, which generates more waste, was highlighted as one of the failures in the government report. The company said it was still using the dirtier process, but that it had until 2019 to switch.

Formosa wants to make steel mill the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia, exactly the sort of investment the government seeks so as to maintain annual growth rates of over 6 percent.

But the activist movement roused by the spill has made Vietnamese – and the government – more attuned to environmental risks.

In February, the government said it would not grant licenses to any projects with a high pollution risk. Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung asked the environment ministry to revise rules and to intensify inspection and supervision of projects at the investment and construction stage.

When people in southern Vietnam reported a bad smell and dust from a new mill being started by Hong Kong-listed Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd last month, the Hau Giang province was quick to investigate.

The company has since promised measures to reduce pollution.

“People are worried about not only their future but also their children’s future. They will continue to fight until their rights are satisfied and protected,” said activist Nam.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Hanoi bureau; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’

March 20, 2017
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Duterte at the House of Representatives on Thursday. Philstar.com/File photo
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MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that his group is considering  filing a supplemental complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly being subservient to China.
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Alejano’s statement came after Duterte claimed last week that he allowed China to send survey ships to Benham Rise as part of an agreement.
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The Department of Foreign Affairs last week said it was not aware of an agreement or policy over the Benham Rise region.
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In an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source,’ Alejano said that the president’s action is a matter of national security since there is a conflict of interest with China on the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.
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“We’re talking about national interest here, we’re talking about national security here because we have a clear conflict of interest in West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.
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China has repeatedly reiterated its position over the South China Sea, saying it has a historical and legal claim over the vast area.
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An international tribunal however, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China, saying that China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has no basis.
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In a speech on Sunday, Duterte also said that he cannot stop China from setting up a reported monitoring station in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
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“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
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Duterte added that the country will lose all of its military and policemen if he declares war against China.
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Alejano however, said that war is not the only solution, saying that the president could constantly raise issues in the West Philippines Sea.
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“He’s not doing that because he’s afraid to offend China,” Alejano said.
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He added that if Duterte said he cannot do anything to protect the country’s territory “then that’s dereliction of duty.”
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 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

Philippine President Duterte Seeking Allies For At Sea Code of Conduct

March 20, 2017
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Duterte is welcomed by his Myanmar counterpart U Htin Kyaw at the Presidential Palace in the capital Naypyitaw yesterday. Duterte flew to Bangkok, Thailand last night. AP

MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to avoid tension in disputed areas in the South China Sea, President Duterte called for support for the approval of a Code of Conduct (COC) among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“It’s very important for China and the rest of the nations, especially the ASEAN, to come up with a Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Myanmar on Sunday night.

The President also pitched for the COC while he was in Myanmar, which was part of the last leg of his introductory tour of Southeast Asia in the run-up to the ASEAN summit this November in Manila.

The Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) was signed by all members of ASEAN and China on Nov. 4, 2002. It lists the principles of self-restraint and non-militarization.

Duterte said he would invoke the arbitral ruling favoring Philippine claims if China starts gathering mineral resources from the disputed areas.

“Kung ang China kukuha na sila ng mga oil o uranium (If China starts getting oil or uranium) or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, kalabitin ko sila (I will do something). Ako man rin ang may-ari niyan (We own it). You claim it by historical right, but by judgment I won and it’s mine,” he said.

But Duterte again admitted that the Philippines cannot stop China from building a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal because the Philippine military is no match for Chinese armed forces. And he cannot allow Filipino soldiers to go to disputed areas to avoid casualties.

“First hour pa lang ubos na ‘yun (they are finished already). We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” he added.

Duterte also claimed that the United States is also “scared” of China.

“Hindi nga natin mapigilan kasi hindi natin kaya ang China. Hindi nga mapigilan ng Amerikano. In the first place, sa umpisa pa lang niyan, hindi na pumunta ang Amerikano, natakot na (We cannot stop China. Even the Americans cannot stop it. In the first place, from the start America did not respond, they got scared right away),” he said.

He noted that what the Philippines has right now are only entitlements.

“Just entitlement, not territory. I said repeatedly it is not within our territorial waters. But what we are trying to achieve is that we are also recognized to own the entitlements,” he said.

“The structures have nothing to do with the economic zone. It might impede but actually it’s a construction that would disturb the navigation of the sea,” he added.

Despite China’s excessive claims, Duterte said he is working to further bolster economic and trade ties between Manila and Beijing.

Defend Panatag

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded Duterte that he has the constitutional duty to defend Panatag Shoal from Chinese incursion.

Carpio also formulated a five-point strategy on how the Duterte administration can respond to China’s reported plan to install a radar station in the disputed shoal.

The magistrate explained that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 or Philippine Baselines Law and should be defended to “preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea.”

But he stressed that since the Philippines cannot match the military power of China, Duterte may opt for other actions to defend the country’s sovereignty over the shoal and fulfill his duty as president.

First, Carpio suggested that the government should file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

“This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels,” he added.

The PCA ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over South China Sea. The justice said the government could also send the Philippine Navy to patrol the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he suggested.

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